If you thought the times of Jack the Ripper terrorising the streets of Whitechapel were long-gone then think again - Mexican street artist Pablo Delgado's Victoriana paste-ups have been popping up all over the East London area featuring a host of Victorian 'icons' including Joseph 'Elephant Man' Merrick, middle-class movers and shakers and London's contemporary under-class . We caught up with Delgado to talk about his paste-up prostitutes and his experiences as a London artist...
Main image: Griff @ Street Art London
You've exploded onto the London street art scene in recent months- how long have you been working in the city for?
I'll have been living in London for two years come October, mostly working from home but over the last months I've spent time putting paste-ups around East London.
You're originally from Mexico right? How different is the London street-scene compared to the Mexico City scene, or work appearing in other cities across Mexico?
In London there's areas were street art is concentrated and people really seem to appreciate the art more. In comparison, Mexico City is huge and graffiti is spread all over the place. It’s quite common to see bad tags sprayed by vandals. Because of them, people see graffiti and street art as vandalism made to annoy people. On the flipside, Mexico's contemporary art scene is influence by a series of muralists; over the decades walls have been used to reflect "change" in Mexican society so they have a great deal of impact. You can see really great things there and they're well respected.
You've joined the ranks of 'miniature' street-artists; what makes your work different from the likes of Slinkachu or Isaac Cordal?
Those names are new to me in general but I'm starting to hear more about them. Since they were mentioned, I've started researching their work and I think they're amazing, especially Isaac Cordal. His pieces are very dramatic and I'd love to see some of them on the street. I can see how I'm related to them; we're all focused on the small detail instead of being obvious - you have to really look for our work. Sometimes small things can have the strongest impact and become the most personal as you have to really get up close to them and ignore the distractions of the surroundings. I guess the difference is the message and the fact that whilst they do mini sculptures I do mini paste-ups.
One of your projects sees you pasting doors from all around the world in miniature format on the streets of London. Can you tell us more about this?
In my work I try to suggest more than just a single dimension; the doors really build on that. They're an entrance to somewhere, hinting at something behind them. They’re all from different places because especially in London, not every door is English. There's immense cultural diversity with almost every nationality represented in this city. The idea stuck in my head for a long time and a year ago I did some stencil doors, but they lacked the detail and expression I wanted, so I changed them into paste ups.
Where do you take your inspiration from for compositions? We got vibes of Victorian curiosities mixed with a rather sharp social-commentary.
Before I came here, my favourite way to imagine London was in the Victorian days when London was a very misty and sinister place. I like the mystery of the Victorian atmosphere so I pull characters from that period of time.
Hombre Elefante (Joseph Merrick)
Why the fixation with street prostitutes in particular? Are you referencing East-end history or driving at a deliberate issue?
The prostitutes represent various things. One aspect is certainly the historical background of the area, but the second is they represent what's happening to East London. The area is selling itself - especially with the Olympics just around the corner. Rent is getting higher, new places are opening every day; everything is for sale and people are taking advantage of this and raising their prices in anticipation of the demand to come. They're prostituting themselves essentially. Finally I guess it's also a reference to how I go out and use the streets as a canvas, making myself public by using public spaces.
Your piece 'Hippo and Waiter' features a bottle of Evian water- can we expect more commercial advertisements to start creeping into your work, after all, London is a world-centre for business?
It's not that I tend to use commercial images, but the scenes are bound between man, animal and objects; some of those 'things' have brands attached to them. The Evian bottle makes it obvious that it's water, so the message can be more direct.
Hippo & Waiter
Your street art appears to mark a huge departure from your previous body of work- what made you change direction? Is this a reinvention? Or a parallel paradigm you're interested in exploring whilst continuing your more studio-based paintings
I'm always trying to take new directions with my work, maybe because I get bored. I chose street art because it's great fun to do. I guess it is a new language that I'm using, not a reinvention. I'm just adding a different colour to the pallet that I want to develop as an artist. I don't want to stop painting or making installations and further in the future I want to say the same about street art.
You're combining media too; what's in your tool box?
I use Photoshop to do basic things as turning them to gray scale, contrast or to correct something in the picture; the rest is felt tip pen for the paste ups and acrylic paint for the shadows.
Have you been surprised at the coverage your street-art has received? We've seen photographs of your paste-art popping up all over the internet and your website even went down because you had too many people accessing it.
Yes! I was very surprised of the internet wave of interest; it's spread very fast. The response has been good but on the flipside some people have started putting pressure on me to make my paste-ups into posters. I'm struggling with the dilemma that yes, I want to make a living through my art but the paste ups are something difficult to sell... They belong to the walls they're on. It's been amazing seeing the appreciation that people have for such tiny things and how it's become a game to find them it makes me want to create more so people can keep looking for them!
Can you give us a sneaky preview of where we can see any of your new pieces cropping up?
The last one I pasted is on Padbury Street but I'm working on more, I just don't know where they are going to go yet. I have some babies, eagles, crows; a Tapir; an old man on a bicycle; some cows and a big red balloon... I'll make some scenes with those characters but the arrangement won't come until I'm standing in front of the wall!
You can see examples of Pablo's work around Shoreditch and the East London area. Visit his website here.